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All Things Footie | Saturday, May 11 | Jordan

End of an Era?

Ask Alex Ferguson if he agrees and he'll tell you it's a load of f****** B*******, but the Dauphin of North London would offer a different (more polite?) opinion. Arsenal see this year's double victory as a significant shift of power in English football. That's maybe why Arsene Wenger considers it to be a greater achievement than his identical trophy haul in 1998. It's more likely that it's because this team reflects the Frenchman's style in a more emphatic manner, much of the success of 1998 was built on George Graham's back five.

13 straight wins, scored in every game, unbeaten away from home; history. Quite possibly the finest league performance of all time, 22 players with more than 10 league appearances and winners medals (3 'keepers!), best goal difference, most enjoyable side to watch, quite simply the very, very best.

There's not a squad member that hasn't contributed to this double in a major way. When the defence looked vulnerable Sol Campbell stepped in with some magnificent performances, Bergkamp reproduced his best form when Henry tired, after Pires injured his cruciate ligament Freddie Ljungberg provided a vital weapon out wide. The unsung heroes of Giovanni Van Bronkhorst, Ray Parlour and Edu — who've all helped out Patrick Vieira in what could not be described as his finest season.

Further congratulations in the direction of Arsenal, this time to the Barclaycard Premiership's winner of the 2002 Golden Boot, Thierry Henry. A fantastic, composed goalscorer coupled with an insatiable will to win and an unselfishness that's not characteristic of winners of this particular award. Squaring three times in for Francis Jeffers to try and score against his old team instead of completing what surely would have been his hat trick was a remarkable gesture that reflects the phenomenal team spirit intrinsic to the side.

Enough triumphalism, just a final note to thank and wish all the best to three legends of Highbury who are retiring at the end of this season—

Bob Wilson, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, take it easy.

There would be uproar from the Manchester United readership if all things footie didn't wish the same to United's Dennis Irwin who's been a tremendous servant to his club and deserves all the credit in the world for his hard work and dedication.

A little more news, in the form of England's squad for this Summer's World Cup (squad number first, number of caps in brackets);

Goalkeepers
1 : David Seaman (68)
13 : Nigel Martyn (21)
22 : David James (7)

Defenders
2 : Danny Mills (5)
3 : Ashley Cole (7)
5 : Rio Ferdinand (20)
6 : Sol Campbell (44)
12 : Wes Brown (4)
14 : Wayne Bridge (3)
15 : Martin Keown (41)
16 : Gareth Southgate (47)

Midfielders
4 : Steven Gerrard (10)
7 : David Beckham (49)
8 : Paul Scholes (42)
18 : Owen Hargreaves (4)
19 : Joe Cole (4)
21 : Nicky Butt (18)
23 : Kieran Dyer (9)

Strikers
9 : Robbie Fowler (24)
10 : Michael Owen (34)
11 : Emile Heskey (22)
17 : Teddy Sheringham (45)
20 : Darius Vassell (3)

It's worth noting that Hargreaves can play in midfield, Heskey is often forced to and Danny Murphy is on standby in case Nicky Butt fails to recover from his injury.

With the announcement of the squad numbers, Sven has hinted that his first XI at the moment resembles this,

1
David Seaman
2
Danny Mills
6
Sol Campbell
5
Rio Ferdninand
3
Ashley Cole
7
David Beckham
4
Steven Gerrard
8
Paul Scholes
11
Emile Heskey
  9
Robbie Fowler
10
Michael Owen
 

I personally would rather have Wayne Bridge on the left wing (interchanging with Cole, or vice versa) and Wes Brown or Owen Hargreaves at right back. Who's to say Sven won't change his mind in the weeks leading up to the opening game? Who's to say he won't be forced to, with injuries picked up today by Dyer and Gerrard it may be that a problem is brewing already.

Coupled with the injury to Nicky Butt it's quite possible that Danny Murphy will end up travelling to Japan and Korea. It may turn out that further midfielders need to be brought into the squad, Michael Carrick? David Dunn? Ray Parlour? It can only come as good news to Owen Hargreaves and Joe Cole though, unless Sven insists on playing Heskey on the left wing (which I think we all know will happen).

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